Common Cause: Bill Ends Corporate Reporting of Campaign Contributions

Statement from Dick Williams, Common Cause of Tennessee:
House Bill 643 by Casada / SB 787 by Watson & Ramsey contain several revisions to the current campaign finance laws in Tennessee.
This bill has received little discussion in the public and in committee, but is scheduled for floor votes in this, presumably, last week of the session. Many of the provisions, when explained in the context of current state & federal campaign law are relatively non controversial.
The exception, so far, is the increase in the limits on contributions from PACs controlled by political parties or caucuses. While Common Cause/TN has some concern about the amounts of the proposed increases in those limits, we are more concerned about the effect of a provision that has received little attention to date. Section 5 of the bill would delete the word “corporation” from the definition of a PAC.
While section 3 of the bill clarifies that corporate or insurance company contributions are held to the same limits as are PACs, the deletion from the definition of a PAC means that corporations, like individuals, would not have to report their contributions to the Registry of Election Finance.
PACs, unlike individuals, are required to report their political contributions to the Registry of Election Finance. Since the definition of a PAC includes a committee, club, association or other group of persons who receive or make political contributions, the effect of Section 5 of this bill would mean that a small group or club that made contributions would continue to report to the Registry, but corporations would not. Certainly, the public would see this as unfair and inappropriate.
One of the important tools for the Registry to assure the accuracy of the campaign disclosure information is the cross-checking of PAC reports with those of candidates. Frequently, discrepancies are found and corrected. In most cases, the figures are reconciled as a bookkeeping error on the part of either the PAC or the candidate or both.
Although we are concerned about possible amendments to this broad captioned bill contrary to the public interest, we believe that Section 5 should be deleted, if the bill is adopted.

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